THE DWINDLING SPHERE
Astounding Science Fiction
By Willard Hawkins
This fine story was rescued from oblivion by Laurence M. Janifer, who reprinted it in Master's Choice. Although early science fiction had (and has) a reputation for accurate prediction and stories about "today's fiction, tomorrow's fact," there were some subjects that received relatively little attention. This was especially true of issues like resource consumption, I with too many writers simply "inventing" new sources of energy or not dealing with the problem at all.
Here is one of the early few that considered the consequences of this particular human activity.
(It's a lucky thing I have good old Marty Greenberg around. I like to think I know every story that was published in the 1930s and 1940s but for some reason I missed this one completely and I don't know Willard Hawkins either then or now. Very upsetting, especially since this is one more story that discusses fission before Hiroshima. Of course, fission of elements less complex than iron involves an input of energy, but what the heck. No one's perfect. The important thing in the story is a certain element of satire.)
Isaac Asimov (August 1979)
EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY OF
FRANK BAXTER, B.S., M.Sc.
June 23, 1945. I thought today I was on the track of something, but the results, while remarkable in their way, were disappointing. The only thing of importance I can be said to have demonstrated is that, with my new technique of neutron bombardment, it is unnecessary to confine experiments to the heavier elements. This broadens the field of investigation enormously. Substituted a lump of common coal for uranium in today's experiment, and it was reduced to a small cinder. Probably oxidized, owing to a defect in the apparatus or in my procedure.
However, it seems remarkable that, despite the almost instantaneous nature of the combustion, there was no explosion. Nor, as far as I could detect, was any heat generated. In fact, I unthinkingly picked up the cinder‑‑‑a small, smooth buttonlike object---and it was scarcely warm.
June 24, 1945. Repeated yesterday's experiment carefully checking each step, with results practically identical to yesterday's. Can it be that I am on the verge of success? But that is absurd. If‑--as might be assumed from the evidence‑‑‑my neutron bombardment started a self‑perpetuating reaction which continued until every atom in the mass had been subjected to fission, enormous energy would have been generated. In fact, I would no longer be here, all in one piece, to tell about it. Even the combustion of my lump of coal at such a practically instantaneous rate would be equivalent to exploding so much dynamite.
It is very puzzling, for the fact remains that the lump has been reduced to a fraction of its original weight and size. There is, after all, only one possible answer: the greater part of its mass must have been converted into energy. The question, then, is what became, of the energy?
June 28, 1945. Have been continuing my experiments, checking and rechecking. I have evidently hit upon some new principle in the conversion of matter into energy. Here are some of the results thus far:
Tried the same experiment with a chuck of rock‑--identical result. Tried it with a lump of earth, a piece of wood, and a brass doorknob. Only difference in results was the size and consistency of the resulting cinder. Have weighed the substance each time, then the residue after neutron bombardment. The original substance seems to be reduced to approximately one twentieth of its original mass, although this varies somewhat according to the strength of the magnetic field and various adjustments in the apparatus. These factors also seem to affect the composition of the cinder.
The essence of the problem, however, has thus far baffled me. Why is it that I cannot detect the force generated? What is its nature? Unless I can solve this problem the whole discovery is pointless.
I have written to my old college roommate, Bernard Ogilvie, asking him to come and check my results. He is a capable engineer and I have faith in his honesty and common sense‑‑‑even though he appears to have been lured away from scientific pursuits by commercialism.
July 15, 1945. Ogilvie has been here now for three days. He is greatly excited, but I am sorry that I sent for him. He has given me no help at all on my real problem, in fact, he seems more interested in the by‑products than in the experiment itself. I had hoped he would help me to solve the Mystery of what becomes of the energy generated by my process. Instead, he appears to be fascinated by those little chunks of residue‑--the cinders.
When I showed that it was possible, by certain adjustments in the apparatus, to control their texture and substance, he was beside himself with excitement. The result is that I have spent all my time since his arrival in making these cinders. We have produced them in consistency ranging all the way from hard little buttons to a mushy substance resembling cheese.
Analysis shows them to be composed of various elements chiefly carbon and silica. Ogilvie appears to think there has been an actual transmutation of elements into this final result. I question it. The material is simply a form of ash‑‑‑a residue.
We have enlarged the apparatus and installed a hopper into which we shovel rock, debris‑‑‑in fact, anything that comes handy, including garbage ‑and other waste. If my experiment after all proves a failure, I shall at least have the ironic satisfaction of having produced an ideal incinerator. Ogilvie declares there is a fortune in that alone.
July 20, 1945. Bernard Ogilvie has gone. Now I can get down to actual work again. He took with him a quantity of samples and plans for the equipment. Before he left, he revealed what is on his mind. He thinks my process may revolutionize the plastics industry. What a waste of time to have called him in. A fine mind spoiled by commercialism. With an epochal discovery in sight, all he can think of is that here is an opportunity to convert raw material which costs practically nothing into commercial gadgets. He thinks the 'stuff can be molded and shaped‑perhaps through a matrix principle incorporated right in the apparatus.
Partly, I must confess, to get rid of him, I signed the agreement he drew up. It authorizes him to patent the process in my name, and gives me a major interest in all subsidiary 'devices and patents that may be developed by his engineers. He himself is to have what he calls the promotion rights, but there is some sort of a clause whereby the control reverts wholly to me or to my heirs at his death. Ogilvie says it will mean millions to both of us.
He undoubtedly is carried away by his imagination. What could I do with such an absurd sum of money? However, a few thousand dollars might come in handy for improved equipment. I must find a means of capturing and controlling that energy.
EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY OF QUENTIN
BAXTER, PRESIDENT OF PLASTOSCENE PRODUCTS, INC.
August 3, 2065. I have made a discovery today which moved me profoundly‑‑‑so profoundly that I have opened this journal so that my own thoughts and reactions may be likewise recorded for posterity. Diary keeping has heretofore appeared to me as a rather foolish vanity‑--it now appears in an altogether different light
The discovery, which so altered my viewpoint, was of a diary kept by my great‑grandfather, Frank Baxter, the actual inventor of plastoscene.
I have often wondered what sort of a man this ancestor of mine could have been. History tells us almost nothing about him. I feel that I know him as intimately as I know my closest associates. And what a different picture this diary gives from the prevailing concept!
Most of us have no doubt thought of the discoverer of the plastoscene principle as a man who saw the need for a simple method of catering to humanity's needs‑one, which would supplant the many laborious makeshifts of his day‑--and painstakingly, set out to evolve it.
Actually, the discovery appears to have been an accident. Frank Baxter took no interest in its development--- regarded it as of little account. Think of it! An invention more revolutionary than the discovery of fire, yet its inventor failed entirely to grasp its importance! To the end of ‑his days it was to him merely a by‑product. He died, considering himself a failure, because he was unable to attain the goal he sought the creation of atomic power.
In a sense, much of the credit apparently belongs to his friend Bernard Ogilvie, who grasped the possibilities inherent in the new principle. Here again, what a different picture the diary gives from that found in our schoolbooks! The historians would have us regard Frank Baxter as a sort of mastermind, Bernard Ogilvie as his humble disciple and Man Friday.
Actually, Ogilvie was a shrewd promoter who saw the possibilities of the discovery and exploited, them‑--not especially to benefit humanity, but for personal gain. We must give him credit, however, for a scrupulous honesty, which was amazing for his time. It would have been easy for him' to take advantage of the impractical, dreamy scientist. Instead, he arranged that the inventor of the process should reap its rewards, and it is wholly owing to his insistence that control reverted to our family, where it has remained for more than a century.
All honor to these two exceptional men!
Neither, it is true, probably envisioned the great changes that would be wrought by the discovery. My ancestor remained to the end of his days dreamy and aloof, concerned solely with his futile efforts to trap the energy, which he was sure he had released. The wealth, which rolled up for him through Plastoscene Products, Inc.‑‑‑apparently the largest individual fortune of his time‑‑‑was to him a vague abstraction. I find a few references to it in his diary, but they are written in a spirit of annoyance. He goes so far as to mention once‑‑‑apparently exasperated because the responsibilities of his position called him away from his experiments for a few hours‑--that he would like to convert the millions into hard currency and pour them into a conversion hopper, where at least they might be turned into something useful.
It is strange, by the way, that the problem he posed has never been demonstrably solved. Scientists still are divided in their allegiance to two major theories‑‑‑one that the force generated by this conversion of elements escapes into the fourth dimension; the other that it is generated in the form of radiations akin to cosmic rays, which are dissipated with a velocity approaching the infinite. These rays do not affect ordinary matter, according to the theory, because they do not impinge upon it, but instead pass through it, as light passes through a transparent substance.
August 5, 2065. 1 have read and reread my grandfather's diary' and confess that I more and more find in, him a kindred spirit. His way of life seems to me infinitely more appealing than that which inheritance has imposed upon me. The responsibilities resting on my shoulders, as reigning head of the Baxter dynasty, become exceedingly onerous at times. I even find myself wondering whether plastoscene has, after all, proved such an unmixed blessing for mankind.
Perhaps the greatest benefits may lie in the future. Certainly each stage in its development has been marked by economic readjustments‑--some of them well‑night world shattering. I have often been glad that I did not live through those earlier days of stress, when industry after industry was wiped out by the remorseless juggernaut of technological progress. When, for example, hundreds of thousands were thrown out of employment in the metal‑mining and ‑refining and allied industries. It was inevitable that plastoscene substitutes, produced at a fraction of the cost from common dirt of the fields, should wipe out this industry‑but the step could have been taken, it seems to me, without subjecting the dispossessed workers and employers to such hardship,. thereby precipitating what amounted to a civil war. When we pause, to think of it, almost every article in common use today represents one or more of those industries which was similarly wiped out, and on which vast numbers of people depended for their livelihood.
We have, at length, achieved a form of stable society‑but I, for one, am not wholly satisfied with it. What do we have? ‑--A small owning class‑‑‑a cluster of corporations grouped around the supercorporation, Plastoscene Products, Inc., of which I am‑heaven help me!‑‑‑the hereditary ruler. Next, a situation‑holding class, ranging from scientists, executives and technicians down to the mechanical workers. Here again‑‑‑because there are so few situations open, compared with the, vast reservoir of potential producers‑the situation holders have developed what amounts to a system of hereditary succession. I am told that it is almost impossible for one whose father was not a situation holder even to obtain the training
necessary to qualify him for any of the jealously guarded positions.
Outside of this group is that great, surging mass, the major part of human society. These millions, I grant, are fed and clothed and housed and provided with a standard of living, which their ancestors would have regarded as luxurious. Nevertheless, their lot is pitiful. They have no incentives; their status is that of a subject class. Particularly do I find distasteful the law, which makes it a crime for any member of this enforced leisure group to be caught engaging in useful labor. The appalling number of convictions in our courts for this crime shows that there is in mankind an instinct to perform useful service, which cannot be eradicated merely by passing laws.
The situation is unhealthy as well from another standpoint. To me it seems a normal thing that society should progress. Yet we cannot close our eyes to the fact that the most highly skilled scientific minds the world has ever known have failed to produce a worthwhile advance in technology for over a quarter of a century. Has science become sterile? No. In fact, every schoolboy knows the answer.
Our scientists do not dare to announce their discoveries. I am supposed to shut my eyes to what I know‑that every vital discovery along the lines of technology has been suppressed. The plain, blunt truth is that we dare not introduce any technical advance, which would eliminate more situation holders. A major discovery‑‑‑‑one that reduced an entire class of situation holders to enforced leisure‑would precipitate another revolution.
Is human society, as a result of its greatest discovery, doomed to sterility?
October 17, 2089. It has been nearly a quarter of a century since I first read the diary of my great‑grandfather, Frank Baxter. I felt an impulse to get it out to show to my son, and before I realized it I had reread the volume in its entirety. It stirred me even more than it did back in my younger days. I must preserve its crumbling pages in facsimile, on permanent plastoscene parchment, so that later descendants‑‑‑finding our two journals wrapped together will thrill as I have thrilled to, that early record of achievement.
The reading has crystallized thoughts long dormant in my mind. I am nearing the end of the trail. Soon I will turn over the presidency of Plastoscene Products, Inc. to my son‑--if he desires it. Perhaps he will have other ideas. He is now a full-fledged Pl. T.D. Doctor of Plastoscene Technology. It may be that power and position will mean as little to him as they have come to mean to me. I shall send for him tomorrow.
October 18, 2089. 1 have had my discussion with Philip, but I fear I bungled matters. He talked quite freely of his experiments. It seems that he has been working along the line of approach started by Levinson some years ago. As we know, the plastoscene principle in use involves the making of very complex adjustments. That is to say, if we wish to manufacture some new type of object‑‑‑say a special gyroscope bearing‑the engineer in charge first sets the machine to produce material of a certain specific hardness and temper, then he adjusts the controls which govern size and shape, and finally, having roughly achieved the desired result, he refines the product with micrometer adjustments‑but largely ‑through the trial‑and‑error method‑until the quality, dimensions and so on meet the tests of his precision instruments. If the object involved is complex‑--involving two or more compounds, for example‑--the adjustments are correspondingly more difficult. We have not succeeded in producing palatable foodstuffs, though our engineers have turned out some messes, which are claimed to have nourishing qualities. I suspect that the engineers have purposely made them nauseating to the taste.
True, once the necessary adjustments have been made, they are recorded on microfilm. Thereafter, it is only necessary to feed this film into the control box, where the electric eye automatically makes all the adjustments for which the skill of the technician was initially required. Levinson, however, proposed to reproduce natural objects in plastoscene by photographic means.
It is this process which Philip apparently has perfected. His method involves a three‑dimensional "scanning" device, which records the texture, shape and the exact molecular structure of the object to be reproduced. The record is made on microfilm, which then needs only to be passed through the control box to re‑create the object as many times as may be required.
"Think of the saving of effort!" Philip remarked enthusiastically. "Not only can objects of the greatest intricacy be reproduced without necessity of assembling, but even natural foods can be created in all their flavor and nourishing quality. I have eaten synthetic radishes‑‑‑I have even tasted synthetic chicken that could not be told from the original which formed its matrix"
"You mean," I demanded in some alarm, "that you can reproduce life?"
His face clouded. "No. That is a quality that seems to elude the scanner. But I can reproduce the animal, identical with its live prototype down to the last nerve tip and hair, except that it is inert‑‑‑lifeless. The radishes I spoke of will not grow in soil‑‑‑they cannot reproduce themselves‑‑‑but chemically and in cell structure they image the originals."
"Philip," I declared, "this is an amazing achievement! It removes the last limitation upon the adaptability of plastoscene. It means that we can produce not merely machine parts but completely assembled machines. It means that foodstuffs can be‑‑‑"
I stopped, brought to myself by his sudden change in expression.
"True, Father," he observed coldly, "except that it happens to be a pipe dream. I did not expect that you would be taken in, by my fairy tale. I have an engagement and must go."
He hurried from the room before I could get my wits about me.
October 23, 2089. Philip has been avoiding me, but I managed at last to corner him.
I began this time by mentioning that it would soon be necessary for me to turn over the burden of Plastoscene Products, Inc. to him as my logical successor.
He hesitated, and then blurted, "Father, I know this is going to hurt you, but I don't want to carry on the succession. I prefer to remain just a cog in the engineering department."
"Responsibility," I reminded him, "is something that cannot be honorably evaded."
"Why should it be my responsibility?" he demanded vehemently. "I didn't ask to be your son."
"Nor," I countered, "did I ask to be my father's son, nor the great‑grandson of a certain inventor who died in the twentieth century. Philip, I want you to do one thing for me. Take this little book, read it, then bring it back and tell me, what you think of it." I handed him Frank Baxter's diary.
October 24, 2089. Philip brought back the diary today. He admitted that he had sat up all night reading it. "But I'm afraid the effect isn't what you expected," he told me frankly. "Instead of instilling the idea that we Baxters have a divine mission to carry on the dynasty, it makes me feel that our responsibility is rather to undo the damage already caused by our meddling. That old fellow back there‑‑‑Frank Baxter‑‑‑didn't intend to produce this hideous stuff."
"Hideous stuff?" I demanded.
"Don't be shocked, Father," he said, a trifle apologetically. "I can't help feeling rather deeply about this. Perhaps you think we're better off than people in your great‑grandfather's time. I doubt it. They had work to do. There may have been employment problems, but it wasn't the enforced idleness of our day. Look at Frank Baxter‑he could work and invent things with the assurance that he was doing something to advance mankind. He wasn't compelled to cover up his discoveries for fear they'd cause further‑‑‑"
He stopped suddenly, as if realizing that he had said more than he intended.
"My boy," I told him, speaking slowly, "I know just how you feel‑‑‑and knowing it gives me more satisfaction than you can realize."
He stared at me, bewildered. "You mean‑‑‑you don't want me to take on the succession?"
I unfolded my plan.
FROM THE DIARY OF RAN RAXLER, TENTHRANKING HONOR STUDENT, NORTH‑CENTRAL FINALS, CLASS OF 2653
December 28, 2653. 1 have had two thrills today‑‑an exciting discovery right on the heels of winning my diploma in the finals. Being one of the high twenty practically assures me of a chance to serve in the production pits this year.
But the discovery‑‑‑I must record that first of all. It consists of a couple of old diaries. I found them in a chestful of family heirlooms which I rescued as they were about to be tossed into the waste tube. In another minute, they would have been on their way to the community plastoscene converter.
There has been a legend in our family that we are descended from the original discoverer of plastoscene, and this find surely tends to prove it. Even the name is significant. Frank Baxter. Given names as well as surnames are passed down through the generations. My grandfather before me was Ran Raxler. The dropping of a letter here, the corruption of another there, could easily have resulted in the modification of Frank Baxter to Ran Raxler.
What a thrill it will be to present to the world the authentic diary of the man who discovered the plastoscene principle! Not the impossible legendary figure, but the actual, flesh-and‑blood man. And what a shock it will be to many! For it appears that Frank Baxter stumbled upon this discovery quite by accident, and regarded it to the end of his days as an unimportant by‑product of his experiments.
And this later Baxter‑‑‑Quentin‑‑‑who wrote the companion diary and sealed the two together. What a martyr to progress he proved himself‑--he and his son, Philip. The diary throws an altogether different light on their motives than has been recorded in history. Instead of being selfish oligarchs who were overthrown by a mass uprising, this diary reveals that they themselves engineered the revolution.
The final entry in Quentin Baxter's diary consists of these words: "I unfolded my plan." The context‑when taken with the undisputed facts of history‑makes it clear what the plan must have been. As I reconstruct it, the Baxters, father and son, determined to abolish the control of plastoscene by a closed corporation of hereditary owners, and to make it the property of the whole people.
The son had perfected the scanning principle which gives plastoscene its present unlimited range. His impulse was to withhold it‑--in fact, it had become a point of honor among technicians to bury such discoveries, after showing them to. a few trusted associates. Incomprehensible? Perhaps so at first, but not when we understand the upheavals such discoveries might cause in the form of society then existing. To make this clear, I should, perhaps, point to the record of history, which proves that up to the time of plastoscene, foodstuffs had been largely produced by growing them in the soil. This was accomplished through a highly technical process, which I cannot explain, but I am told that the University of Antarctica maintains an experimental laboratory in which the method is actually demonstrated to advanced classes. Moreover, we know what these foods were like through the microfilm matrices, which still reproduce some of them for us.
The right to produce such foods for humanity's needs was jealously guarded by the great agricultural aristocracy. And, of course, this entire situation‑holding class, together with many others, would be abolished by Philip's invention.
We know what happened. Despite the laws prohibiting the operation of plastoscene converters except by licensed technicians and situation holders, contraband machines suddenly began to appear everywhere among the people. Since these machines were equipped with the new scanning principle, it is obvious, in view of the diary, that they must have been deliberately distributed at strategic points by the Baxters.
At first, the contraband machines were confiscated and destroyed‑but since they were, of course, capable of reproducing themselves through the matrix library of microfilm which was standard equipment, the effort to keep pace with their spread through the masses was hopeless. The ruling hierarchies appealed to the law, and to the Baxters, whose hereditary control of the plastoscene monopoly had been supposedly a safeguard against its falling into the hands of the people as a whole. The Baxters, father and son, then played their trump card. They issued a proclamation deeding the plastoscene principle in perpetuity to all the people. History implies that they were forced to do this‑--but fails to explain how or why. There was a great deal of confusion and bloodshed during this period; no wonder that historians jumped at conclusions‑‑-even assuming that the Baxters were assassinated by revolutionists, along with others of the small owning group who made a last stand, trying to preserve their monopolies. In light of Quentin Baxter's diary, there is far better ground for believing that they were executed by members of their own class, who regarded them as traitors.
We should be thankful indeed that those ancient days of war and bloodshed are over. Surely such conditions can never reappear on Earth. What possible reason can there be for people to rise up against each other? Just as we can supply all our needs with plastoscene, so can our neighbors on every continent supply theirs.
March 30, 2654. I have completed my service in the production pits, and thrilling weeks they have been. To have a part in the great process, which keeps millions of people alive, even for a brief four weeks' period, makes one feel that life has not been lived in vain.
One could hardly realize, without such experience, what enormous quantities of raw material are required for the sustenance and needs of the human race. How fortunate I am to have been one of the few to earn this privilege of what the ancients called "work."
The problem must have been more difficult in the early days. Where we now distribute raw‑material concentrates in the form of plastoscene‑B, our forefathers had to transport the actual rock as dredged from the gravel pits. Even though the process of distribution was mechanical and largely automatic, still it was cumbersome, since material for conversion is required in a ratio of about twenty to one as compared with the finished product
Today, of course, we have the intermediate process, by which soil and rock are converted at the pits into blocks of plastoscene‑B. This represents, in a sense, the conversion process in an arrested stage. The raw material emerges in these blocks reduced to a tenth of its original weight. and an even smaller volume than it will occupy in the finished product‑‑‑since the mass has been increased by close packing of molecules.
A supply of concentrate sufficient to last the ordinary family for a year can now easily be stored in the standard sized converter, and even the huge community converters have a capacity sufficient to provide for all the building, paving of roadways, recarpeting of recreation grounds, and like purposes, that are likely to be required in three months' time. I understand that experimental stations in South America are successfully introducing liquid concentrate, which can be piped directly to the consumers from the vast production pits.
I was amused on my last day by a question asked by a ten‑year‑old boy, the son of one of the supervisors. We stood on a rampart overlooking one of the vast production pits, several hundred feet deep and ‑miles across‑the whole space filled with a bewildering network of towers, girders, cranes, spires and cables, across and through which flashed transports of every variety. Far below us, the center of all this activity, could be discerned the huge conversion plant, in which the rock is reduced to plastoscene‑B.
The little boy looked with awe at the scene, and then turned his face upward, demanding, "What are we going to do when this hole gets so big that it takes up the whole world?"
We laughed, but I could sympathize with the question. Man is such a puny creature that it is difficult for him to realize what an infinitesimal thing on the Earth's surface is a cavity, which to him appears enormous. The relationship, I should say, is about the same as a pinprick to a ball which a child can toss in the air.
FROM ‑ THE INTRODUCTION TO OUR EIGHTY YEARS' WAR, SIGNED BY GLUX GLUXTON, CHIEF HISTORIAN, THE NAPHALI INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE (DATED AS OF THE SIXTH DAY, SIXTH LUNAR MONTH, YEAR 10,487)
The Eighty Years' War is over. It has been concluded by a treaty of eternal amity signed at Latex on the mor ing of the twenty‑ninth day of the fifth month.
By the terms of the treaty, all peoples of the world agree to subject themselves to the control by the World Court. The Court, advised through surveys continuously conducted by the International Institute of Science, will have absolute authority over the conversion ‑of basic substance into plastoscene, to the end that further disputes between regions and continents shall be impossible.
To my distinguished associates and to myself was allotted the task of compiling a history of the causes behind this prolonged upheaval and of its course. How well we have succeeded posterity must judge. In a situation so complex, how, indeed, may one declare with assurance which were the essential causes? Though known as the Eighty Years' War, a more accurate expression would be "the Eighty Years of War," for the period has been one marked by a constant succession of wars‑‑‑of outbreaks originating spontaneously and from divers causes in various parts of the world.
Chief among the basic causes, of course, were the disputes, between adjoining districts over the right to extend their conversion pits beyond certain boundaries. Nor can we overlook the serious situation precipitated when it was realized that the Antarctican sea‑water conversion plants were sucking up such great quantities that the level of the oceans was actually being lowered‑much as the Great Lakes once found on the North American continent were drained of their water centuries ago. Disputes, alliances and counter alliances, regions arrayed against each other, and finally engines of war raining fearful destruction. What an unprecedented bath of blood the world has endured!
The whole aim, from this time forth, will be to strip off the earth's surface evenly, so that it shall become smooth and even, not rough and unsightly and covered with abandoned pits as now viewed from above. To prevent a too rapid lowering of sea level, it is provided that Antarctica and some other sections which have but a limited amount of land surface shall be supplied with concentrate from the more favored regions.
Under such a treaty, signed with fervent good will by the representatives of a war‑weary world population, is it farfetched to assert that permanent peace has been assured? Your historian holds that it is not.
FROM THE REPORT OF RAGNAR DUGH, DELEGATE TO THE WORLD PEACE CONFERENCE, TO THE 117th DISTRICT (CIRCUIT 1,092, REV. 148)
Honored confreres: It gives me pleasure to present, on behalf of the district which has honored me as its representative, concurrence in the conditions for peace as proposed in the majority report.
As I view your faces in the televisor, I see in them the same sense of deep elation that I feel in the thought that this exhausting era of bloodshed and carnage has run its course, and that war is to be rendered impossible from this time forth. Is this too strong a statement? I read in your eyes that it is not, for we are at last abolishing the cause of warnamely, the overcrowding of the earth's surface.
The proposed restrictions may seem drastic, but the human race will accustom itself to them. And let us remember that ,they would be even more drastic if the wars themselves had not resulted in depopulating the world to a great extent. I am glad that it has not been found necessary to impose a tenyear moratorium on all childbearing. As matters stand, by limiting childbirth to a proportion of one child per circuit of the sun for each three deaths within any given district, scientists agree that the population of the earth will be reduced at a sufficient rate to relieve the tension.
The minority report, which favors providing more room for the population by constructing various levels or concentric shells, which would gird the world's surface and to which additional levels would be added as needed, I utterly condemn. It is impractical chiefly for the reason that the conversion of so much material into these various dwelling surfaces would cause a serious shrinkage in the earth's mass.
Let us cast our votes in favor of the majority proposition, thus insuring a long life for the human race and for the sphere on which we dwell, and removing the last cause of war between peoples of the earth.
FROM THE MEMOIRS OF XLAR XVII, PRINCEP OF PLES
Cycle 188, 400‑43. What an abomination is this younger generation! I am glad the new rules limit offspring to not more than one in a district per cycle. My nephew, Ryk LVX, has been saturating himself with folklore at the Museum of Antiquity, and had the audacity to assure me that there are records, which suggest the existence of mankind before plastoscope. Why will people befog their minds with the supernatural?
"There is a theory," he brazenly declared, "that at one time the world was partly composed of food, which burst up through its crust ready for the eating. It is claimed that even the carpet we now spread over the earth's surface had its correspondence in a substance which appeared there spontaneously."
"In that case," I retorted sarcastically, "what became of this‑‑‑this exudation of the rocks?"
Of course, he had an answer ready: "Plastoscene was discovered and offered mankind an easier method of supplying its needs, with the result that the surface of the earth, containing the growth principle, was stripped away. I do not say that this is a fact," he hastened to add, "but merely that it may have some basis."
Here is what I told my nephew. I sincerely tried to be patient and to appeal to his common sense. "The basis in fact is this: It is true that the earth's surface has been many times stripped during the long existence of the human race. There, is only one reasonable theory of life on this planet. Originally man‑--or rather his evolutionary predecessor‑--possessed within himself a digestive apparatus much wider in scope than at present. He consumed the rock, converted it into food, and thence into the elements necessary to feed his tissues, all within his own body. Eventually, as he developed intelligence, man learned how to produce plastoscene by mechanical means. He consumed this product as food, as well as using it for the myriad other purposes of his daily life. As a result, the organs within his own body no longer were needed to produce plastoscene directly from the rock. They gradually atrophied and disappeared, leaving only their vestiges in the present digestive tract."
This silenced the young man for a time, but I have no doubt he will return later with some other fantastic delusion. On one occasion it was ‑the legend that, instead of being twin planets, our earth and Luna were at one time of differing sizes, and that Luna revolved around the earth as some of the distant moons revolve around their primaries. This theory has been thoroughly discredited. It is true that there is a reduction of the earth's mass every time we scrape its surface to produce according to our needs; but it is incredible that the earth could ever have been several times the size of its companion planet, as these imaginative theorists would have us believe. They forget, no doubt, that the volume and mass of a large sphere is greater, in proportion to its area and consequent human population, than that of a smaller sphere. Our planet even now would supply man for an incomprehensible time, yet it represents but a tiny fraction of such a mass as these theorists would have us believe in. They forget that diminution would proceed at an ever‑mounting rate as the size decreased; that such a huge sphere as they proposed would have lasted forever.
It is impossible. As impossible as to imagine that a time will come when there will be no more Earth for man's conversion.